Science & Technology

Science news

The physics behind the world’s fastest swim strokes

Aug 21, 2016

To propel themselves through the water, swimmers use different strokes to control drag and lift. But which stroke is the fastest? Some experts have pinpointed the fish kick — a version of the dolphin kick — as the speediest swimming style. Why? As swim coach and engineer Rick Madge explains, it's all about fluid dynamics. “The fish kick is usually what they call dolphin kick, [but] on the side,” Madge says. “And it's called that because that's more like what fish do, as opposed to the up and...

©2016 Science Friday

©2016 Science Friday

©2016 Science Friday

The Race to Build a Smaller Rocket

Aug 19, 2016

©2016 Science Friday

©2016 Science Friday

NC State Awarded Grant For New Plant Sciences Initiative

Aug 19, 2016
Artist rendering of the new plant sciences building
NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

The Golden LEAF Foundation has awarded a $45 million grant to NC State to help the university build a new plant sciences building. Along with other contributions, the grant gets the university closer to the $160 million cost of construction.

PuckerButt Pepper Company

The first time Ed Currie tasted the Carolina Reaper, a fire-engine red chili pepper the size of a golf ball, “it knocked me to my knees,” he says. “I was very surprised.” Currie, who’s the founder of the  PuckerButt Pepper Company  and cultivator of the Carolina Reaper, says he wasn’t trying to create the hottest pepper in the world. His initial aim was to produce a pepper packed with capsaicinoids, a family of compounds that has been used in pharmaceuticals such as arthritis creams. Currie...

Tbachner/<a href="">Wikimedia Commons</a>

The human tendency to be right-handed is obvious — especially if you’re a lefty and have to deal with right-handed desks and scissors, not to mention spiral notebooks. But humans aren’t the only members of the animal kingdom that show handedness, or the preference for one hand over the other.  Other primates  exhibit right-handed or left-handed proclivities, as do animals that don’t technically have hands. For instance, research has shown that  some mice are righties while others are...

The end of summer is coming. Have you been mothing yet?

Aug 14, 2016
Charlesjsharp/<a href="">Wikimedia Commons</a>

Moths play a vital role in our ecosystems, but many people know little about them. That's why Elena Tartaglia, an ecologist at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey, thought it was time to raise awareness.  After Tartaglia had the experience of going mothing in East Brunswick, she decided to try and start a regular summer mothing night. What's mothing? Just going outside to find and record moths. “We thought, wouldn't it be fun to get everyone in New Jersey to do a moth night?”...

Where is modern cloning, 20 years after Dolly?

Aug 14, 2016
The University of Nottingham

Twenty years ago, Dolly the sheep was born, becoming the first mammal cloned from an adult cell. Dolly lived for 6.5 years and developed osteoarthritis late in life. Researchers analyzed her chromosomes and found that she had shortened telomeres, an indication that her genetic age was actually older than her 6.5 years. In a recent study in Nature Communications, scientists report that four of Dolly’s "sister clones" — sheep born from the same cell line as Dolly — had normal cardiovascular,...

Why snails are one of the world's deadliest creatures

Aug 13, 2016
Alan R. Walker/CC BY-SA 3.0

As far as the world’s deadliest creatures go, large predators like sharks and lions tend to get all the credit. But in fact, if we were to point to the animal kingdom’s most frequent killer, it’d actually be the mosquito. Another creature belonging to the “small but deadly” category is the freshwater snail, which is responsible for more than 200,000 deaths a year — more deaths than sharks, lions and wolves combined. Freshwater snails carry a parasitic disease called schistosomiasis, which...

Why New Zealand is going all out to kill its rats, possums

Aug 13, 2016

New Zealand is well-known for harboring hundreds of beautiful native bird species, many of which have called the archipelago home for millennia. Mammalian species, on the other hand, are not native to the island nation — all except two surviving bat species arrived along with humans a mere 700 years ago. Since then, nearly a quarter of the country’s native birds have gone extinct. Now the government of New Zealand has announced it is adopting a rather extreme conservation strategy to save its...

Photo of patient using virtual reality system
Neurorehabilitation Laboratory, Alberto Santos Dumont Association for Research Support (AASDAP), São Paulo, Brazil

Eight paraplegic patients have regained partial control of their lower limbs, according to a recent rehabilitation study led by a Duke University neuroscientist.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard

Put simply, Lisa Randall’s job is to figure out how the universe works, and what it’s made of. Her contributions to theoretical particle physics include two models of space-time that bear her name. The first Randall–Sundrum model addressed a problem with the Standard Model of the universe; the second concerned the possibility of a warped additional dimension of space. When she’s not unraveling cosmic mysteries as a  professor in the department of physics at Harvard University , she writes...

Photo of Dr. Cynthia Toth and Dr. Francesco LaRocca
Francesco LaRocca / Duke University

A team of engineers and physicians at Duke University has developed a new device that can capture high-quality images of retinas. It can produce high-resolution images of photoreceptor cells, or rods and cones. Previous technology required the patient to sit still and concentrate for a few minutes, something children can't do very well. This lightweight handheld device fixes that problem.

Watch this slow-motion video of attacking electric eels

Aug 8, 2016

Scientists have long known that electric eels can send out short pulses of electricity to sense their environment and also to paralyze their prey. But one researcher has recently discovered that eels can also use powerful electric pulses to attack or defend themselves while leaping out of the water.  Neurobiologist Ken Catania has been studying eels for several years. In fact, he keeps at least two tanks of eels in his lab for observation. One day, while he was moving one of his larger eels —...

Valentin Flauraud/Reuters

Today, the federal government spends about $60 billion a year on research. That research gets published in scientific journals that institutions, researchers and the public have to pay in order to access. Many have argued that the government should make this taxpayer-funded research freely available. And now Congress has drafted a piece of legislation that would do just that. “If you're a taxpayer, money goes to pay for research, you definitely should have a right to be able to see what that...

The women who made communication with outer space possible

Aug 6, 2016

In 1969, the world watched as Neil Armstrong marked his historic achievement with the words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” His now-famous transmission was heard around the globe thanks to NASA’s Deep Space Network, which made communication from outer space possible. That network was built by a woman named Susan Finley. She was part of an all-female team of coders whose work was integral to the success of the Apollo 11 mission, but went largely unheralded....

©2016 Science Friday

©2016 Science Friday

The Physics of the Fastest Swim Strokes

Aug 5, 2016

©2016 Science Friday

©2016 Science Friday

Is a Healthier English Bulldog Possible?

Aug 5, 2016

©2016 Science Friday

Frank Drake

When astronomer Frank Drake organized the first SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) conference back in 1961 in Green Bank, West Virginia, only a dozen people attended. “I invited everyone in the world I knew about who was interested in the subject or who had written something about it — so all 12,” Drake remembers fondly. “All [were] very enthusiastic, because they’d all been in a situation I’d been in — that they were very interested in this subject, but it was taboo. They really...